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Graduating from player to coach, Belmont’s Luke Smith will take over his high school basketbal

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

Luke Smith, a graduate student on Belmont’s men’s basketball team, has been named head coach-in-waiting at his alma mater, Knoxville Catholic High School.

The announcement comes after Michael Hutchens, Smith’s own high school coach, announced he will retire at the end of the season after 33 years with the school’s Fighting Irish.

“They approached me and told me that they wanted me to be the next head coach,” Smith said. “It was really shocking and exciting.”

The Tennessee native graduated from Knoxville Catholic in 2017, where he was a standout player and Tennessee Mr. Basketball finalist for leading his team to a runner-up finish in their state tournament.

Smith said a coaching career has been on his radar dating back to his time at Sewanee: The University of the South before transferring to Belmont.

“Around my sophomore year at Sewanee, I kind of knew I wanted to be a coach. It’s just something that I enjoy,” he said. “I enjoy the strategy part of the game as much as I enjoy playing.”

Smith has trained young basketball players in the Knoxville area in the past, and he’s not intimidated by the responsibilities of coaching.

“There’s always things that make you a little uncomfortable, but I think that’s the exciting part,” he said. “When this opportunity came, it seemed like an opportunity that I could not pass up. The community means so much to me.”

Going back to his roots, Smith enjoys making a difference on his old stomping ground of Knoxville.

“Over the last few summers, I’ve actually done a lot of skills training in the area,” Smith said. “I haven’t exactly had any competitive experience, but I know what these players are going through.”

Smith is a team captain and a proven leader on the Belmont basketball team now, but he recognizes that he will need to take on a new role upon switching gears to coaching in the near future

“It’ll definitely take a different style of leadership, more of an overseeing role,” he said. “The biggest thing is just getting to know all the players and trying to learn their personalities. It’s something I’ll have to learn when I get there.”

When it’s his time to take over Knoxville Catholic basketball, Smith believes the foundation of his team will be based on three key things:

“I want to have a team that plays hard, plays tough and plays together,” he said. “I think we’ll really hang our hat on those three things when I get there.”

For now, Smith remains at Belmont with teammates who have been messing with him after hearing the news, he said.

“I got a lot of, ‘Hey, coach Smith,’ when I came into the locker room,” he said. “It’s been funny, but they’ve known that coaching is something that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.”

But Smith isn’t letting the big news take his focus from the 2021-22 season at Belmont.

“Myself and our team have worked way too hard to have anything distract us,” he said.

Smith will tune in to Knoxville Catholic’s games to watch his future team, but he remains locked in with the Bruins.

“I’m gonna watch all their games,” he said. “I’m still ready to play basketball and that’s what 100% of my focus is on.”

PHOTO: No. 3 Luke Smith locking in to make a pass at a game against Morehead State during the 2020-2021 season. Belmont Athletics / Tyra Finkeldey.

This article was written by Landen Secrest.

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